Thanks largely to hard-working and tenacious truck drivers, Americans enjoy a vast array of fresh food and products delivered right to their neighborhood stores. Trucks are also the primary mode of transportation used by the moving industry for relocating millions of U.S. residents each year. But keeping things moving means traveling long distances in semi-trucks and other large vehicles with certain operating limitations. These include long stopping distances, wide turns and blind spots caused by a truck’s massive size. While truckers are well aware of these issues, other drivers may not be. See our five tips for helping you safely negotiate the road when driving near trucks.
1. Keep out of Blind Spots
Avoid driving in a large truck’s blind spots, also known as No Zones. These are large areas located around the front, back and sides of the vehicle. Rather than drive in a blind spot, slow down or move ahead to stay visible. A good rule of thumb is – if you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, assume they can’t see you. Be extra careful when merging near a truck as you may be in a blind spot.
2. Watch Out For Wide Turns
Due to their size, trucks require extra room when making turns. Consequently, if you see a truck’s turn signal on, don’t try to squeeze by or get into the space between the vehicle and the curb. You could end up in trouble since part of the truck’s trailer could come into your lane. Remember trucks swing wide and may even start a turn from the middle lane, rather than the far right lane.
3. Pass Safely
Passing another vehicle safely is always important, but particularly so for large trucks which can’t stop as quickly as passenger vehicles due to their weight and size. Make sure you can see the truck driver in the mirror before passing and always signal clearly and in advance. Move into the left lane and accelerate so that you can get past the truck safely and promptly. Be sure to allow plenty of space between you and the truck before you pull in front. One approach is to make sure you can see the truck in your rearview mirror before moving into their lane. Also, avoid passing trucks and buses on a downgrade where they tend to pick up speed.
4. Don’t Tailgate!
Driving too close to a truck is a bad idea on many fronts. For one thing, you will be in the truck’s blind spot, so they likely won’t know you’re there. Another thing, if you can’t stop in time, you could end up sliding under the truck, since these vehicles sit high off the ground. The results could be deadly. Also, remember to give trucks lots of room even when stopped. This is especially important on an upgrade, where they can roll back.
5. Avoid Cutting it Close
When passing, allow plenty of room between you and the truck before merging back into the lane in front of the truck. Remember trucks take longer to stop than passenger vehicles. If you move in too quickly from either side, you’re likely to be in a blind spot, and the driver may not see you in time. By cutting it too close, the driver may not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid a crash.
To learn more, see the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Tips for Driving Safely Around Large Trucks or Buses.”